Teaching Kids to Change the World

“Teaching kids to change the world” sounds like a lofty ambition; we recognize that. But change happens all around us, every day, whether or not we do anything about it. Thus, we have a choice: We can “become the change [we] want to see in the world” (as Gandhi encouraged), or we can simply react to change as it occurs.
—Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner and Chris Maser, co-authors of Teaching Kids to Change the World: Lessons to Inspire Social Responsibility for Grades 6–12

As a parent, you have the opportunity to introduce your children to their incredible personal power. They will learn much from observing your good example. Teach them that each action they take results in a consequence. A hallmark of positive parenting is having intentional conversations with children about how they can use their power to create good results. Young people can and do change the world.

Tips for . . .

  • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • Take your child to a pond, lake, fountain, or other small body of water where it is okay to toss in a pebble or coin. Invite your child to toss in the object and watch the ripples that spread outward.
    • With older preschoolers, you can talk about how lots of actions are like pebbles thrown into a pond: they make rings. You can repeat this lesson over and over, helping your child eventually see that his actions are the result of personal choices, and all have particular outcomes.
    • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • A child’s instinct or passion to change the world grows out of positive experiences helping others and from conversations about why helping others is important. Turn these experiences and conversations with your child into habits that you encourage.
    • As you personally engage in civic activities—such as campaigning for candidates, voting, working on school referendums, or doing service projects in your community—bring your children along when you can and talk to them about why you choose to spend your time in this way.
    • Think about your children’s passions and interests. Look for ways they can make a difference in those areas. Do they love dogs? How about helping them collect pet food or soft rags for bedding at an animal shelter? Are they passionate about music? Let them teach younger kids or share their talent with elders in a family talent show. Do outdoor activities excite them? Maybe a community “greening” project is for them.
    • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • This is a great age to encourage youth empowerment. Find ways for your preteen or teen to engage in service projects at school or in the community. Take time to talk about the impact they are making. Help them think even bigger.
    • Find ways to link your child’s spark or passion to an activity that uses it for the greater good. Is it soccer? How about coaching younger kids? Is it the arts? How about volunteering to add creative flare to a nonprofit Web site or newsletter?
    • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • When you help your teenager link personal passions with activities that benefit others, it can open the door for doing “good“ and seeing potential career paths. It can also be the vehicle through which a teen finds confidence and self-worth.
  • With your teenager, participate in a fundraiser or other event designed to raise awareness of, or promote change related to, an issue that concerns you both. Better yet, do the research together to find out about such opportunities and help your teenager sign up to participate with friends.

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